‘The Nutcracker’ is like coming home to an open fire; it’s comforting and warming and just what’s needed on a cold winter’s night. It’s like an old friend – certainly English National Ballet’s storied production relies on avid fans returning year on year for the quintessential festive ballet.
As snow falls and skaters glide across the stage, ETA Hoffman’s fanciful story begins. Choreographed by Wayne Eagling back in 2010, the lavish opening party scene is full of the gaiety of youth and as girls skip about, you’ll let out a chuckle as the grandmother and grandfather attempt to dance as they once did, especially when grandma almost tumbles and grandpa pokes her with his cane.
But it’s when everyone’s gone to bed and the magician Drosselmeyer’s spells take effect that Tchaikovsky’s ballet takes fantastical flight. It becomes the terrain of Mouse Kings, toy soldiers, sugar plum fairies and it’s at this point you realise why every little girl wants to be Clara and ever dancer wants to dance the role.
But ENB’s well-worn ‘Nutcracker’ is not quite the stuff of dreams. It’s a little too dark in its enactment of the story and a little too stiff in its stage sets and clunky scene changes. But there are glimmers of magnificence when Clara and the Nutcracker perform their impressive duets, when the Dragonfly flutters into motion and the Land of Sweets’ glistened gestures are precision perfect. Ultimately Tchaikovsky’s score can never fail to elate and it certainly keeps this adaptation afloat.
Find more Christmas dance shows in London
Find more festive fun with our guide to Christmas in London